May 30, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

If you are lucky enough to have an asparagus bed, it is time to clean it up. Break all the tops down and leave to rot down on top of the soil (under the mulch you are going to lay).

You can lightly fork the surface to counteract compacting and caking of the soil but be careful not to damage the crowns of the asparagus. Asparagus takes a couple of years before it starts to crop and it is a permanent occupant so you do need a bit of space to accommodate it, but heading out to pick fresh asparagus on a near daily basis in spring is a highlight of the vegetable year here.

  • It is worth learning how to grow plants from seed. At this time of the year, sowing micro greens in a seed tray will give delicious fresh shoots and leaves in a short space of a few weeks. We use the polystyrene trays that mushrooms used to come in (with lots of holes punched in the base) and fill them with a layer of compost on the bottom, a layer of good garden loam next and a top mulch of bark potting mix. The mulch keeps them clean from surface splashing. If you can’t find polystyrene trays (and we have been hoarding ours for years here), you can get plastic or even old wooden trays. You only need about 15cm of depth to grow seeds and most large pots are far too deep which is why trays are better. Keep seed trays in warm, sunny positions and stay on top of slugs which will beat you to young shoots.
  • Dig lilies and divide them if your clumps were looking congested this summer. They can be replanted immediately but will appreciate your efforts digging the soil first to make it friable.
  • Continue the autumn clean up round, including digging and dividing clumping perennials (the plants which don’t put up woody stems but grow from many shoots on the surface – sometimes called herbaceous perennials).
  • It is planting time for garlic, onions, shallots, spring onions and all their relatives. Garlic and shallots are planted as cloves whereas main crop onions are done from seed. These are all gross feeders and need plenty of compost in good soil and full sun. Use local garlic, not the cheap imported stuff which is poor and can carry viruses.
  • Queens Birthday is the traditional time for garden centres to have their roses available. Be in early for the best selection.

We have a most irreverent book entitled Bed Undies and Dutchman’s Trousers (subtitled: Naughty Plants for Every Occasion). I am not sure that readers of this paper are ready for the plant list for the Gay Boys’ Border, but if we tell you it is written by self proclaimed haughtyculturalist, Sacha Langton-Gilks and lists such plants as Cercis canadensis Forest Pansy and Rhododendron Faggeter’s Favourite, you may get the drift. The plant lists for naughty people of either gender, plants to give to people you hate, plants for the Religious Border and plants which betray your common upbringing are equally amusing (to some of us, at least).